This thing is so small and quiet you’d think it was a student at the Milford School
One thing I’ve noticed with the past few console launches, something that became quite evident the day I preordered my Xbox Series S, is that I no longer feel the excitement I once did when moving into a new generation. Even last week, when I managed to secure an all-digital PS5 just minutes after I swore to stop trying until next year, it didn’t push me to jump for joy. I used to jump for joy picking up a new console. I remember being quite giddy standing in line at Walmart to buy the GameCube on a cold November morning.
Maybe it’s because the promise of better technology has lead to diminishing returns over the past two console generations. Maybe it’s because there are no launch titles for the Xbox Series of consoles or the PS5 that I “must play now.” Or maybe, it’s because gaming is so prolific now that it’s really all about the games rather than the hardware you choose to play them on.
Whatever it is, I do miss the excitement that comes with anticipating a new console. But with my Xbox Series S, that feeling has been replaced by something that might be just as fulfilling: the satisfaction of knowing you bought quality hardware. I love my Series S not because I managed to buy the “hot new thing” but because this console is built so goddamn good.
And it’s so much smaller than I thought it would be. This little white box measures 10.8″ long, 5.9″ deep, and 2.5″ tall when positioned on its side. It weighs less than five pounds. You could fit two of these in an Xbox Series X with a few square inches to spare. My current entertainment center is not well suited for multiple systems, so having a Wii U, PS4 Slim, and Switch hooked up to it takes up a decent amount of usable space. Thankfully, the Series S is so small it sits comfortably next to my Wii U. And unlike my PS4 Slim, this thing is quiet.
Setting this thing up took around five minutes going through the Xbox app on my phone. With everything synced up to my Xbox account, the console scanned my television and showed me which Series S options I can and cannot use. I know this is not a new technology, as some of my fellow writers were quick to explain to me in Slack, but it did teach me more about my television and how to access HDR content on my PS4. Getting 120 fps is out of the question as my TV doesn’t support it, but I can experience 4K on video playback and with any games that support it (and yes, some games support 4K on the Series S).
If you’re looking for a console with power, you should probably know what the Series S is packing in its petite body. Here are some of the specs:
- CPU: 8x Cores at 3.6 GHz (Custom Zen 2 CPU)
- GPU: 4 TFLOPS, 20 CUs @1.565 GHz
- Memory: 10 GB GDDDR6
- Internal Storage: 512 GB (364 GB usable)
- Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby TrueHD with Atmos, DTS 5.1
In the past month, I’ve come to love just how fast the Xbox Series S gets me into my games. Quick Restart is an outstanding feature. For games that support it, it’ll get you back into the action in mere seconds rather than having to wait for a game to load. And it does this across multiple titles at once rather than just having a single game in a suspend state. The console itself is quick to start too. If you go the environmentally friendly route with the Energy-Saver mode, it’ll take about 22 seconds to start up. If you choose Instant-On, it’s around four seconds.
I’m also really digging the redesigned controller. I’ve always preferred the layout of the Xbox controller over the PlayStation because I have good taste, but the changes here make it even better than before. Particularly, the directional pad has a nice “clicky” quality to it, and it’s a bit more comfortable to use than my Xbox One controller.
As of the publishing of this article, I haven’t actually bought any games for the console. Instead, I’ve been diving into Xbox Game Pass. And it’s a deep dive because there are years of games and franchises I’ve missed not being an Xbox owner. Games like Fable III and Halo 4 that were once out of reach are now at my fingertips. I’ve enjoyed brand new games with the service, like Call of the Sea, and the recent addition of EA Play will help fill the Star Wars gap between seasons of The Mandalorian. At $15, it’s pricier than PS Now. But it’s cheaper than Gamefly, which is good because, with the Series S and my soon-to-arrive all-digital PS5, I can’t rent games anymore.
And these games run magnificently. Are most of what I’m playing from the last generation? Sure, but it’s nice to have access to these titles without any of the hiccups they might have had on previous consoles. Games optimized for Series S and Series X can be stunning, though that might have more to do with the incredible art direction employed in those titles. There’s a good chance in the near future Xbox Game Pass will stream to your computer or television like Stadia or Luna, but until that happens, the Series S is a great jumping-off point to the service.
Depending on what it is you want from your next-gen system, there are a few downsides to consider before buying a Series S. As stated above, it only has 364 GB of useable space built in. If you like to play a lot of AAA games, expect those file sizes to start around 45 GB. Some games, like Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition and Quantum Break, easily eclipse 100 GB each.
I have Phantasy Star Online 2, Yakuza 0, Planet Coaster: Console Edition, Alan Wake, Minecraft Dungeons, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and Carrion currently downloaded to my console, which takes up 39% of its usable space. I’m trying to play through each Game Pass title before moving onto the next, but there are some games I’m just not going to delete from the system. PSO2 was a 75 GB download, and there is no way in hell, with data caps, I’m going to go through that again.
I’ve also repeatedly run into a weird issue with streaming apps like Disney+ and HBO Max. These apps will occasionally drop the picture, and the screen will pop to white and black before continuing on with whatever I’m watching. While enjoying Little Shop of Horrors, the problem persisted for more than a half-hour until it finally ceased. And it does this whether I’m watching something or not. I can just be browsing the app itself and run into this issue. Now that HBO Max is accessible through my smart TV, I don’t have to worry about using these video apps anymore. Still, it’s an incredibly odd and ruthlessly persistent problem.
I’ve seen some speculation that Microsoft might have made too many cuts to the Xbox Series S to actually hang around this entire console generation. I don’t know if that’s true, but if this does end up being something of a “transitional console,” I’m perfectly fine with that. Because it’s giving me exactly what I want from it right now: it’s an easy gateway to those games I missed in past generations, it’s whisper silent, it’s tiny enough to fit nicely into my current television stand, and it’s letting me play all the new games, just without the Series X bells and whistles.
There’s really not much more that I could ask for here, other than some worthwhile, first-party titles. Those will come eventually, but until they do, I have three generations of games to keep me busy. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to download Phantom Dust.